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Tuesday, 26 Apr 2022

Written Answers Nos. 184-203

Data Protection

Questions (184)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

184. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Taoiseach if a piece of surveillance technology (details supplied) is being used by his Department or any agencies under his remit in view of the fact that there are security and privacy concerns associated with the use of same; the data protection policies on the use of artificial intelligence with respect to instances in which this technology is being used. [21227/22]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

My Department does not use the surveillance technology mentioned. The National Economic and Social Council (NESDO) which is the only agency under the aegis of my Department, does not use the surveillance technology mentioned.

Departmental Data

Questions (185)

Gerald Nash

Question:

185. Deputy Ged Nash asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the total amount of IDA grants received by a company (details supplied) from 2018 to date in 2022 inclusive broken down under the headings of employment grants, capital grants, training grants and financial support for research and development in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19291/22]

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Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

There are currently 120 IDA supported companies in the West Region, employing approx. 29,000 people. Galway is a crucial part of the West’s attractiveness to FDI, as 94 IDA supported companies are based in the county, employing over 22,000 people. The FDI performance in the region has been strong over the past five years with employment among IDA clients increasing by 32%. 

While Lisk Ireland has received IDA grants in the past, the company was not in receipt of any such grants from 2018 to date in 2022.

Departmental Data

Questions (186)

Gerald Nash

Question:

186. Deputy Ged Nash asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if any elements of a company’s (details supplied) business has a client relationship with Enterprise Ireland; if training grants have been secured by the company from the agency in each of the years 2018 to date in 2022 inclusive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19292/22]

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Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

Although the company concerned is not an Enterprise Ireland (EI) client company, my Department officials confirmed there have been a number of interactions with EI over the last ten years. As a manufacturer of hydraulic solenoids for world markets this company has interacted with EI’s Global Sourcing team on at least two occasions. The Global Sourcing initiative provides multinationals with direct access to potential local suppliers and is an important platform for raising awareness of the capabilities of innovative Irish SMEs across a range of sectors.

In 2019, the company attended one of Enterprise Ireland’s Brexit Advisory Clinics. As a result of this engagement on Brexit, the company agreed to undertake the available online customs training.

Training grants have not been secured by this company, from Enterprise Ireland, between the years 2018 and 2022 inclusive.

Departmental Staff

Questions (187)

Marc MacSharry

Question:

187. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will provide the details of the name, salary, position and roles of persons who are being paid for by his Department for secondment to another public, private or semi-private entity in tabular form following the announcement that the salary of a person (details supplied) being seconded to Trinity College, Dublin will be paid by the Department of Health; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19546/22]

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Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

The table below sets out the details of persons who are being paid for by my Department for secondment to another public, private or semi-private entity.   The officers concerned are seconded from my Department to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and posted to the Permanent Representation to the EU in Brussels and embassies and missions overseas.  In all these cases, my Department remains liable for full salary costs as the officers concerned carry out duties overseas in relation to my Department’s portfolio.

Table 1 - Secondments to the Department of Foreign Affairs for posting to the Permanent Representation to the EU, Brussels and Embassies and Missions overseas:

Number

Salary Scale

Role / Grade

Seconded to

6

€91,609 - €113,313

PO Counsellor

- Permanent Representation of Ireland to the EU, Brussels x 2

- Irish Mission Geneva 

- Embassy of Ireland London 

- Embassy of Ireland Washington 

- Embassy of Ireland Berlin 

5

€70,399 - €87,734

AP attaché

- Permanent Representation of Ireland to the EU, Brussels x 3

- Embassy of Ireland London 

- Embassy of Ireland Beijing 

1

€33,889 - €64,038

Administrative Officer

Permanent Representation of Ireland to the EU, Brussels

2

€50,848 - €64,038

Higher Executive Officer

- Irish Mission Geneva

- Embassy of Ireland London

1

€25-339 - €41,504

Clerical Officer

Irish Mission Geneva

Additionally, there are 4 staff of my Department seconded to the European Commission as seconded national experts (SNEs).  In these cases, the sponsoring Member State remains liable for salary costs for each officer.  In the case of 3 of these officers, while they remain on the payroll of my Department their salary costs are reimbursed by the civil service central fund set up to facilitate Ireland’s outreach across Europe.  In the case of the fourth officer, 50% of their salary is reimbursed by the central fund (this is a limited fund and services all Government Departments for this purpose).  In general, SNEs are seconded for a period of 2 years.

On occasion, officers of my Department are seconded to other Departments across the civil service to work on cross-Governmental priorities and interdepartmental initiatives.  Currently there is 1 officer at Clerical Officer level seconded to the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and the Gaeltacht for such interdepartmental work.

Apprenticeship Programmes

Questions (188, 196)

Holly Cairns

Question:

188. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his Department and public bodies and agencies that operate under his remit run apprenticeship programmes or are directly engaged in the training of apprentices; if so, the number of apprentices involved; the specialities in which they are being trained; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19582/22]

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Holly Cairns

Question:

196. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his Department and public bodies and agencies that operate under his remit facilitate internships by students engaged in full-time or part-time further and higher education courses; if so, the number of interns his Department and public bodies and agencies that operate under his remit accept annually; if any or all of these interns receive remuneration of any kind; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20004/22]

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Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 188 and 196 together.

Neither my Department nor the agencies under its remit are currently directly involved in operating apprenticeship programmes or in training apprentices.

In the recent past, my Department's ICT unit had engaged an apprentice under the Fast Track to IT apprenticeship programme, an apprenticeship scheme for workers in the information technology space.

Enterprise Ireland (EI), in collaboration with the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Skills, works to promote the engagement of apprentices by its client companies. EI promotes collaboration between enterprise and the education and training sector on apprenticeship programmes to assist in addressing short and medium term skills needs in the economy.

Departmental Staff

Questions (189)

Carol Nolan

Question:

189. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of persons employed by his Department and bodies under the aegis of his Department with a rate of pay below the living wage of €12.30; the role that those persons occupy within his Department or relevant body; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19626/22]

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Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

The Government has been clear in our belief that a legacy of the pandemic must be better pay, terms and conditions for everyone, particularly for those on low pay. We are committed, therefore, to progressing to a living wage over the lifetime of this Government.

Currently there is no official living wage in Ireland. The Living Wage Technical Group, which comprises members including Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice, TASC, NERI and SIPTU calculates a living wage by estimating the cost of a basic basket of goods, services and expenses required to maintain a “minimum essential living standard”.

Last year, I asked the Low Pay Commission to examine and make recommendations on the best approach to achieving the Programme for Government commitment to progress to a living wage over the lifetime of the Government.

The Low Pay Commission recently submitted its report on the living wage. Along with my officials, I will review the Commission’s report and recommendations. I will also consider the next steps required in the progression to a living wage, such as the publication of the Commission’s report and the accompanying research report, and consultation on the implementation of the Commission’s recommendations.

The National Minimum Wage is a statutory entitlement and has a legislative basis. The Low Pay Commission annually assesses the appropriate level of the National Minimum Wage. The current national minimum hourly rate of pay, since 1 January 2022, is €10.50.

Remuneration for staff employed by my Department and its Offices is essentially set by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in line with Government policy.  

Based on the Civil Service 37-hour standard net working week, an hourly wage of €12.30 essentially equates to an annual salary of €23,747.

There are currently 3 permanent staff of the Department and its Offices on a wage of less than €12.30 per hour based on the latest payroll of April 2022. This is made up of three Services Attendants on the first point of the Services Attendant salary scale. It should be noted that the maximum point on the incremental scales for these staff is above the hourly suggested rate of €12.30,  over time and based on satisfactory performance, each staff member in these grades would proceed to earn more than the living wage through incremental progression. Additionally, those currently identified on basic annual salary of less than €23,747 could be receiving remuneration in excess of this figure through additional payments in respect of specific allowances particular to the grade or atypical working hours.

In terms of the Agencies of my Department, details are set out in the table below;

Agency

Number of persons earning below €12.30 per hour

Role of persons earning below €12.30 per hour

Enterprise Ireland *

10

Executive Assistant

Health and Safety Authority

0

N/a

Irish Auditing and Accounting Supervisory Authority (IAASA)

0

N/a

Personal Injuries Assessment Board  (PIAB)

0

N/a

IDA Ireland

7

Project Executive Assistants (Level B)

National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI)

0

N/a

Intertrade Ireland (ITI)

 

 

CCPC

0

N/a

*Enterprise Ireland has 10 employees who are currently on a rate of pay equivalent to less than €12.30 per hour. Enterprise Ireland’s current sanctioned Level B salary scale (which has relativity with the Civil Service Clerical Officer grade) has a minimum point of €22,049. This is €1,698 lower than the annual equivalent of the standard 37 hour week at €12.30 per hour. For employees recruited on this grade, they reach the equivalent of the annualised €12.30 per hour rate after they have received their first annual increment.

Low Pay Commission

Questions (190)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

190. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment further to Parliamentary Question No. 13 of 10 February 2022, the status of the examination by the Low Pay Commission and the National University of Ireland, Maynooth into the introduction of a living wage in Ireland; if he has received the report to-date; the timeline for the publication of the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19723/22]

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Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

The Deputy will be aware from my previous responses to her questions on this issue that in 2021 I asked the Low Pay Commission to examine the Programme for Government commitment to progress a living wage over the lifetime of the Government and to make recommendations to me on how best we can achieve this commitment. Following this request, the Low Pay Commission commissioned a team of researchers in the National University of Ireland, NUI, Maynooth, to conduct technical research on the living wage. In January of this year, the Low Pay Commission received the research report from the researchers at NUI Maynooth.

I recently received the Low Pay Commission’s report and recommendations on the progression to a living wage. Along with my officials, I am reviewing the Commission’s report and recommendations. I am considering the next steps required in the progression to a living wage, such as the publication of the Commission’s report and the accompanying research report, and consultation on the implementation of the Commission’s recommendations.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (191)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

191. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment further to Parliamentary Question No. 77 of 10 February 2022, the status of his engagement at European Union and World Trade Organisation level with regard to the waiving of intellectual property rights in respect of Covid-19 vaccines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19724/22]

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Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

Universal and equitable access to safe, effective and affordable vaccines, diagnostics and treatments is crucial in the global fight against COVID-19.

International Trade is a competence of the EU under the Treaties and in exercising that competence, the European Commission engages fully with the Member States, including Ireland, through a variety of Committees and Working Parties/Groups, including on Intellectual Property.

The EU is of the view that there is no single solution and that a multi-pronged approach is needed and that discussions should concentrate on how the Intellectual Property system can contribute towards increasing the manufacturing capacity and the equitable access to vaccines around the world.

In recent months, the EU has participated in the informal discussions on the intellectual property element of the WTO response to the COVID-19 pandemic with representatives of South Africa, India, and the US, known as the ‘Quad’ group.  These discussions have been detailed and protracted, and a potential proposed compromise outcome has now emerged, that aims to offer the most promising path toward achieving a meaningful outcome among all WTO Members.

This draft proposal has not yet been presented to the full WTO membership for consideration. As these consultations are still ongoing, I am not in a position to provide details of the draft proposal.

In the meantime, the EU will continue to engage constructively in discussions in the WTO in order to reach a compromise as soon as possible.

Global production of COVID-19 vaccines reached 12.6 billion doses by February 2022 and is expected to be between 18 and 19 billion by mid-2022. This means that by mid-2022 we will have sufficient vaccines for everybody in the world, including for booster campaigns.  As vaccine production is no longer an issue, the focus has now shifted to vaccinations and how strengthening health systems and their preparedness is pivotal in the achievement of the 70% vaccination target. 

In 2021, the EU was the largest donor of doses through COVAX and is the largest donor and exporter of vaccines globally. Team Europe has shared more than 400 million vaccine doses and exported over 1.8 billion vaccines to 165 countries and is committed to sharing 700 million doses by mid-2022, with a focus on supporting Africa where vaccination rates are lower than in other parts of the world.  Team Europe is also investing €1 billion to ramp up mRNA production capacity in Africa.

In addition to dose donation and exports of vaccines, the EU, with its Member States, has committed over €3 billion to COVAX in support of the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

The Irish Government has to date committed to the donation of €13.5 million and five million COVID-19 vaccine doses to the COVAX facility. Over 1.8 million doses have already been delivered to recipient countries including almost 1.5 million doses delivered to African countries including Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana, and Burkina Faso, with further deliveries expected to follow shortly.

Low Pay Commission

Questions (192)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

192. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment further to Parliamentary Question No. 33 of 9 February 2022, if he has received the report by the Low Pay Commission and the ESRI of a universal basic income; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19725/22]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

As the Deputy will be aware, the programme for Government includes a commitment to "request the Low Pay Commission to examine universal basic income, informed by a review of previous international pilots, and resulting in a universal basic income pilot in the lifetime of the Government". Last year, I formally requested that the Low Pay Commission examine this issue.

To inform its considerations, the Low Pay Commission asked the ESRI to conduct background technical research on a universal basic income under the terms of the Low Pay Commission-ESRI research partnership agreement. The study will examine the universal basic income pilots that have taken place in other jurisdictions to identify what was learned and what might be relevant to a pilot in Ireland. It will also seek to identify which policy objectives a universal basic income pilot could address and its associated risks and financial implications. It will conclude with recommendations on how a pilot in Ireland might be designed and run.

The Low Pay Commission intends to provide a report to me on this research and its recommendations during Q2 2022. I expect to be able to publish both the ESRI report and the LPC's report shortly after that.

Official Engagements

Questions (193)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

193. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the details of any bilateral engagement he has had with his counterparts in Saudi Arabia in 2021 and to-date in 2022; if, in the course of this engagement, he has raised issues relating to Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and in particular the recent mass execution of 81 persons on 12 March 2022; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19726/22]

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Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

I visited Saudi Arabia from 12 – 15 November 2021 as part of an Enterprise Ireland-led trade mission to the Gulf region. The trade mission was organised by Enterprise Ireland and had the participation of 60 Irish companies and organisations. Irish business-to-business interests are growing in the Gulf region. Exports by Irish companies to the UAE and Saudi Arabia in 2020, even against the backdrop of a global pandemic, increased by 12% and 6% respectively, signifying the interest by Irish companies and the continued strong opportunities that exist in this rapidly growing market.

The primary focus of all trade missions and associated meetings is to encourage business-to-business links, to maximise opportunities to help Irish companies to access new markets and to increase the levels of foreign direct investment into Ireland which in turn creates employment opportunities.

While in Saudi Arabia, I held meetings with the President of the Saudi General Authority of Civil Aviation, the Governor and Board of the Saudi Central Bank, the Saudi Minister for Commerce, the Saudi Minister for Investment, and the Saudi Minister for Transport. These meetings were arranged as part of the trade mission to further our trade and investment promotion objectives in Saudi Arabia. I also had discussions on the social and economic transformation which is underway, as part of the Saudi government’s Vision 2030. This aims to diversify the Saudi economy, encourage greater personal freedoms, and deepen Saudi Arabia’s engagement with regional and international partners which include the European Union.

To be effective in raising human rights issues with other countries we must do it in an appropriate way and at the right opportunity, so that our concerns are taken seriously and acted upon. Ireland has always been at the forefront internationally in raising human rights issues through bilateral contacts and especially through the European Union and the United Nations.

I have not had any bilateral engagements with counterparts in Saudi Arabia in 2022.

Work Permits

Questions (194)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

194. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the introduction of a digital nomad visa in Italy; if his Department is considering the introduction of a special work visa aimed at freelancers and remote workers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19822/22]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

Under the Employment Permits Acts, in order to work in the State, all non-EEA nationals require a valid employment permit or a relevant immigration permission from the Minister for Justice allowing them to enter the State to reside and work without the requirement for an employment permit.

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment administers the employment permits legislation and criteria for the granting of employment permit permissions to take up employment in the State in an eligible job. The granting of an employment permit is subject to relevant criteria including a contract of employment with an employer in the State. An employment permit is employer and employee specific and cannot be transferred from one employer or occupation to another.

Where the foreign national is visa required, they must apply for a visa from the Department of Justice before travelling to the State.

Departmental Staff

Question No. 196 answered with Question No. 188.

Questions (195)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

195. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will outline all of the secondment arrangements within his Department; the conditions related to such secondments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19866/22]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

There are a number of secondment arrangements in my Department whereby officers from my Department are seconded out to other organisations and, similarly, officers from other organisations are seconded into my Department. These secondment arrangements generally operate under the guiding principle that the ‘receiving body’ becomes liable for all salary costs associated with the secondment.  Administration of same can be dealt with in two different ways.  In some cases, depending on the bodies involved, the secondee joins the payroll of the receiving organisation, or alternatively, the parent organisation continues to pay the secondee but recoups full salary costs from the receiving body. 

Table 1 and Table 2 set out secondment arrangements currently in place between my Department and other organisations.  Table 1 outlines details of those seconded into my Department and Table 2 outlines those seconded out of my Department.   

In all cases the organisation liable for expenditure related to salary costs is that to which the officer is seconded to and for which the secondee provides services and carries out duties for the period of the secondment.

 Table 3 sets out secondments from my Department to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).  In these cases, staff of my Department are seconded to DFA and posted to the Permanent Representation to the EU in Brussels and embassies and missions overseas.  In all these cases, my Department remains liable for full salary costs as the officers carry out duties overseas in relation to my Department’s portfolio.

Table 1 – Secondments into my Department:

In these cases, my Department is liable for salary costs as the secondee carries out duties for, and on behalf of, my Department for the duration of the secondment.

Number

Role / Grade

Seconded from

1

Assistant Principal 

Institute of Public Administration

1

PO Legal Adviser

Office of the Attorney General

1

AP Legal Adviser

Office of the Attorney General

3

Industrial Relation Officers – Workplace Relations Commission

1. Office of the Attorney General

3.  Valuation Office

3. Oireachtas

1

Executive Officer

Courts Service

1

Executive Officer

Department of Agriculture

1

Assistant Principal

Department of Social Protection

1

Assistant Principal equivalent

IDA Ireland

1

Assistant Principal equivalent

Enterprise Ireland

   Table 2 - Secondments out of my Department:

In these cases, the organisation to which the officer is seconded to, is liable for salary costs as the secondee carries out duties for, and on behalf of, the receiving organisation for the duration of the secondment.

Number

Role / Grade

Seconded to

1

Examiner of Patents

Health & Safety Authority

1

Solicitor

Health and Safety Authority

1

Higher Executive Officer

D/Agriculture

1

County Development Team Officer

Donegal Local Enterprise Office

1

Head of Enforcement

Irish Auditing & Accounting Supervisory Authority

1

Assistant Principal

Ordnance Survey Ireland

1

Assistant Principal

Department of Foreign Affairs

1

Assistant Principal

D/Environment, Climate and Communications

1

Administrative Officer

D/Taoiseach

1

Higher Executive Officer

D/Public Expenditure and Reform

1

Clerical Officer

National Shared Services Office

1

Executive Officer

D/Rural and Community Development

1

Assistant Principal

IDA Ireland

Table 3 - Secondments to the Department of Foreign Affairs for posting to the Permanent Representation to the EU, Brussels and Embassies and Missions overseas:

In these cases, my Department continues to be liable for salary costs associated with the overseas postings as the officers carry out duties on behalf of my Department’s mandate.

Number

Role / Grade

Seconded to

6

PO Counsellor

-  Permanent Representation of Ireland to the EU, Brussels x 2

-  Irish Mission Geneva

-  Embassy of Ireland London

-  Embassy of Ireland Washington

-  Embassy of Ireland Berlin

5

AP attaché

-  Permanent Representation of Ireland to the EU, Brussels x 3

- Embassy of Ireland London

- Embassy of Ireland Beijing

1

Administrative Officer

Permanent Representation of Ireland to the EU, Brussels

2

Higher Executive Officer

-  Irish Mission Geneva

-  Embassy of Ireland London

1

Clerical Officer

Irish Mission Geneva

Additionally, there are 4 staff of my Department seconded to the European Commission as seconded national experts (SNEs).  In these cases, the sponsoring Member State remains liable for salary costs for each officer.  In the case of 3 of these officers, while they remain on the payroll of my Department, their salary costs are reimbursed by the civil service central fund set up to facilitate Ireland’s outreach across Europe.  In the case of the fourth officer, 50% of their salary is reimbursed by the central fund (this is a limited fund and services all Government Departments for this purpose).  In general, SNEs are seconded for a period of 2 years.

On occasion, officers of my Department are seconded to other Departments across the civil service to work on cross-Governmental priorities and interdepartmental initiatives.  Currently there is 1 officer at Clerical Officer level seconded to the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and the Gaeltacht for such interdepartmental work.

 Finally, there are 6 officers seconded to the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC), an agency under the remit of my Department.  Prior to its establishment as a statutory independent organisation, the CCPC, formerly known as the Competition Authority was an office of my Department and was staffed from my Department’s staffing cohort.  While most staff assigned to the Competition Authority at that time have returned to my Department proper, or designated as full-time employees of the CCPC, the status of a small number (six) has yet to be regularised.  In all six cases, as the officers seconded to the CCPC carry out duties and provide their services to the CCPC, the CCPC are liable for and pay their full salary costs with no expenditure associated to the Department.

Question No. 196 answered with Question No. 188.

Fuel Prices

Questions (197)

Neale Richmond

Question:

197. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has considered ways to make consumers aware of the prices of petrol in a centralised database prior to purchasing to help combat the rising costs of fuel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20033/22]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

The matter raised in the question is outside the remit of my Department.  I understand that the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications provides a weekly update on average consumer prices for a range of fuels in fulfilment of Ireland’s obligation to report such prices to the European Commission and they may be in a position to provide a response. 

In many markets the ability of consumers to switch between suppliers acts as a disciplining force on the actions of firms (including the prices charged by those firms).  Switching between service stations can help to constrain the prices charged at the fuel pump, however the price of fuels is strongly influenced by external factors which are outside of the control of service stations.  This can be seen in recent weeks where the prices of fuels across the EU have risen in response to a number of supply related issues. 

Price display orders have functioned to provide clear pricing information to consumers both before they enter a trader’s premises and at the point of sale.  The roadside displays raise consumers awareness of pricing and allow them to make informed decisions.  The price display requirements and trader compliance are enforced by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC).   

Complaints to the CCPC have not reflected or indicated consumer difficulty accessing the price of fuel across service stations in their local area.  The geographical distribution of service stations in Ireland is such that in many areas the ability of a consumer to shop around (i.e., drive to a range of service stations) may be limited. In the experience of the CCPC, product and service comparisons are particularly effective where all products are available to all consumers in the market.  The CCPC does not include products on its financial comparison tools that are not available nationally to the majority of consumers.

Departmental Staff

Questions (198)

Carol Nolan

Question:

198. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of persons currently employed in his Department who have been seconded in from the public sector; the number of Departmental officials seconded where the monies are recouped from the body the person is seconded to or where the Department pays for the person with no recoupment from the other organisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20059/22]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

There are a number of secondment arrangements in my Department whereby officers from my Department are seconded out to other organisations and, similarly, officers from other organisations are seconded into my Department.   These secondment arrangements generally operate under the guiding principle that the ‘receiving body’ becomes liable for all salary costs associated with the secondment.  Administration of same can be dealt with in two different ways.  In some cases, depending on the bodies involved, the secondee joins the payroll of the receiving organisation, or alternatively, the parent organisation continues to pay the secondee but recoups full salary costs from the receiving body. 

Table 1 and Table 2 set out secondment arrangements currently in place between my Department and other organisations.  Table 1 outlines details of those seconded into my Department and Table 2 outlines those seconded out of my Department.  

 In all cases the organisation liable for expenditure related to salary costs is that to which the officer is seconded to and for which the secondee provides services and carries out duties for the period of the secondment.

 Table 3 sets out secondments from my Department to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).  In these cases, staff of my Department are seconded to DFA and posted to the Permanent Representation to the EU in Brussels and embassies and missions overseas.  In all these cases, my Department remains liable for full salary costs as the officers carry out duties overseas in relation to my Department’s portfolio.

Table 1 – Secondments into my Department:

In these cases, my Department is liable for salary costs as the secondee carries out duties for, and on behalf of, my Department for the duration of the secondment.

Number

Role / Grade

Seconded from

1

Assistant Principal 

Institute of Public Administration

1

PO Legal Adviser

Office of the Attorney General

1

AP Legal Adviser

Office of the Attorney General

3

Industrial Relation Officers – Workplace Relations Commission

1. Office of the Attorney General

3.  Valuation Office

3. Oireachtas

1

Executive Officer

Courts Service

1

Executive Officer

Department of Agriculture

1

Assistant Principal

Department of Social Protection

1

Assistant Principal equivalent

IDA Ireland

1

Assistant Principal equivalent

Enterprise Ireland

Table 2 - Secondments out of my Department:

In these cases, the organisation to which the officer is seconded to, is liable for salary costs as the secondee carries out duties for, and on behalf of, the receiving organisation for the duration of the secondment.

Number

Role / Grade

Seconded to

1

Examiner of Patents

Health & Safety Authority

1

Solicitor

Health and Safety Authority

1

Higher Executive Officer

D/Agriculture

1

County Development Team Officer

Donegal Local Enterprise Office

1

Head of Enforcement

Irish Auditing & Accounting Supervisory Authority

1

Assistant Principal

Ordnance Survey Ireland

1

Assistant Principal

Department of Foreign Affairs

1

Assistant Principal

D/Environment, Climate and Communications

1

Administrative Officer

D/Taoiseach

1

Higher Executive Officer

D/Public Expenditure and Reform

1

Clerical Officer

National Shared Services Office

1

Executive Officer

D/Rural and Community Development

1

Assistant Principal

IDA Ireland

Table 3 - Secondments to the Department of Foreign Affairs for posting to the Permanent Representation to the EU, Brussels and Embassies and Missions overseas:

In these cases, my Department continues to be liable for salary costs associated with the overseas postings as the officers carry out duties on behalf of my Department’s mandate.

Number

Role / Grade

Seconded to

6

PO Counsellor

-  Permanent Representation of Ireland to the EU, Brussels x 2

-  Irish Mission Geneva

-  Embassy of Ireland London

-  Embassy of Ireland Washington

-  Embassy of Ireland Berlin

5

AP attaché

-  Permanent Representation of Ireland to the EU, Brussels x 3

-  Embassy of Ireland London

-  Embassy of Ireland Beijing

1

Administrative Officer

Permanent Representation of Ireland to the EU, Brussels

2

Higher Executive Officer

-  Irish Mission Geneva

-  Embassy of Ireland London

1

Clerical Officer

Irish Mission Geneva

Additionally, there are 4 staff of my Department seconded to the European Commission as seconded national experts (SNEs).  In these cases, the sponsoring Member State remains liable for salary costs for each officer.  In the case of 3 of these officers, while they remain on the payroll of my Department, their salary costs are reimbursed by the civil service central fund set up to facilitate Ireland’s outreach across Europe.  In the case of the fourth officer, 50% of their salary is reimbursed by the central fund (this is a limited fund and services all Government Departments for this purpose).  In general, SNEs are seconded for a period of 2 years. 

On occasion, officers of my Department are seconded to other Departments across the civil service to work on cross-Governmental priorities and interdepartmental initiatives.  Currently there is 1 officer at Clerical Officer level seconded to the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and the Gaeltacht for such interdepartmental work. 

Finally, there are 6 officers seconded to the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC), an agency under the remit of my Department.  Prior to its establishment as a statutory independent organisation, the CCPC, formerly known as the Competition Authority was an office of my Department and was staffed from my Department’s staffing cohort.  While most staff assigned to the Competition Authority at that time have returned to my Department proper, or designated as full-time employees of the CCPC, the status of a small number (six) has yet to be regularised.  In all six cases, as the officers seconded to the CCPC carry out duties and provide their services to the CCPC, the CCPC are liable for and pay their full salary costs with no expenditure associated to the Department.

European Council

Questions (199)

Gerald Nash

Question:

199. Deputy Ged Nash asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the Government's position on the establishment of an European Union social imbalances procedure as discussed in the Council conclusions on the 2022 Annual Sustainable Growth Survey and Joint Employment Report agreed at the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council Meeting no.3851; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20084/22]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

In line with the Council Conclusions on the 2022 Annual Sustainable Growth Survey and Joint Employment  Report adopted at the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council Meeting on 14th March 2022, the Employment Committee and the Social Protection Committee continue to reflect on the need for refining existing multilateral mechanisms to further identify and prevent social divergences in EU Member States.

Both Committees will continue their work on an opinion for the Council further examining the possibility to introduce a Social Imbalances Procedure. Discussions involving all Member States on the proposed procedure are ongoing in order to provide more clarity in advance of formulating a Government position on the proposal.

Work Permits

Questions (200)

Thomas Pringle

Question:

200. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the way in which a Sri Lankan citizen may come to Ireland to work (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20212/22]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

Under the Employment Permit Acts, in order to work in the State all non-EEA nationals require a valid Employment Permit or relevant immigration permission from the Minister for Justice which allows them to reside and work in the State without the requirement for an Employment Permit. The Irish State’s general policy is to promote the sourcing of labour and skills needs from within the workforce of the European Union and other EEA states. However, where specific skills prove difficult to source within the EEA, an employment permit may be sought in respect of a non-EEA national who possess those skills.

All Employment Permit applications are processed in line with the Employment Permits Act 2006, as amended and are dependent on a job offer from an Irish registered Employer for an eligible occupation.

It should be noted that the State's employment permit system is ordered by the use of occupation lists which determine which employments are highly demanded and which are ineligible for consideration for employment permits at a point in time and these lists are reviewed on a twice-yearly basis.

Since the 14th June 2021 the role of a Health Care Assistant is an eligible occupation for a General Employment Permit.  The minimum annual remuneration for a Health Care Assistant is €27,000 based on a 39 hour working week (hourly rate €10.85).  After a person has been working in the State as a Health Care Assistant on the basis of an employment permit for a period of 2 years or more, when applying for a second or subsequent employment permit the individual is required to have attained a relevant Level 5 Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) qualification.

Information is provided on the Department’s website in relation to employment permits including information in relation to each permit type, latest updates and an FAQ document which answers the majority of the most common questions, all of which are available through this link - enterprise.gov.ie/en/What-We-Do/Workplace-and-Skills/Employment-Permits/

To assist applicants when applying for a General Employment Permit,  a checklist document has been prepared which is also available on the Department’s website and can be accessed through this link:- enterprise.gov.ie/en/Publications/Publication-files/General-Employment-Permits-Checklist.pdf.

Online employment permit applications may be submitted at epos.djei.ie.  A user guide to assist with online applications is available at the following link epos.djei.ie/EPOSOnlinePortal/UserGuide.pdf

Regional Aid

Questions (201)

Gerald Nash

Question:

201. Deputy Ged Nash asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason that the Drogheda Urban electoral area was excluded from the recently published Regional Aid map for Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20288/22]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

At the outset, it should be pointed out that the Regional Aid Map is decided by the European Commission not the Government. In negotiations with the Commission, the Government sought the inclusion of much more of the country including Drogheda Urban.  We will do so again at the mid-term review in 2023 when the data from the census is available.

In European law, Louth is part of the Mid-East Region (NUTS2) alongside Meath, Kildare and Wicklow not the Border region. Louth is the only county in the Mid-East to have any part of it included as a qualifying area in the Regional Aid Map. This is due to its proximity to the border even though it is not officially in the NUTS2 Border region.

Regional Aid does not involve any European money or grants and should not be confused with structural funds which Ireland qualified for in the past. Rather it limits the amount of regional state aid that the Irish exchequer can provide to certain geographic areas based on specified criteria.

In Drogheda, the focus was on including the areas around the town where major industrial development is most likely to occur in the future. So, the following industrial areas in Drogheda Rural do qualify. These are: 

- The new land acquired by IDA Ireland in June 2021. This is located in the townland of Mell and is 7.55 ha. It is located just off Junction 10 on the M1 Dublin to Belfast motorway. For regional aid purposes, this is Drogheda Rural LEA and it is included in the Regional Aid Map.

- Newtown Science & Tech Park. This is yet to be developed and it is also home to the Drogheda Enterprise Centre, a REDF funded project.

- Drogheda North Business Park. This is yet to be developed.

 The Regional Aid Map for every Member State must be developed within the criteria laid down in the European Commission’s Regional Aid Guidelines, issued in April 2021. Ireland’s economy has shown strength and improvement since 2014.  As a consequence, the European Commission proposed to reduce the overall coverage of Ireland’s Map, as measured by proportion of total population, to 25.6%. Following intensive negotiations with the Commission, this was increased to 35.9%.  This is a reduction of almost one third from the 51.3% which applied previously.  This adjustment was part of a European wide review and Ireland was not unique in facing a reduction in coverage. With a more limited population coverage, and the strict criteria set by the Commission, it was important that the optimal allocation was achieved.

To achieve this, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, working with stakeholders, including Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland and Údarás na Gaeltachta, developed a multi-dimensional model that provided a depth of analysis within the Commission’s set criteria.  This was an objective and impartial approach, though final approval of the Map, for Ireland and for all Member States, rests with the European Commission. The Commission announced its decision on 22 March 2022.

Due to the more limited population coverage available to be allocated, several Local Electoral Areas (LEAs) identified by the multi-dimensional model could not be included. We sought to include these areas and explored all options with the European Commission, but it was not possible to include them. However, they have been recognised and listed as reserves, including Drogheda Urban, and these areas will be kept under close review with a view to including them as part of a mid-term review of the Map, which will take place in 2023.

Highly residential LEAs such as Drogheda Urban tend not to be areas where enterprises might develop. While Drogheda Urban LEA is not included in the Map there is scope for positive ‘spill-over’ effects for the Drogheda Urban LEA, e.g., residents of Drogheda Urban LEA can benefit from employment opportunities in neighbouring areas. 

LEAs not included on the map can still access all other types of State Aid. Only approximately 7.4% of Ireland’s State Aid is in the form of Regional Aid and other aid remains available to enterprises, irrespective of their location. For example, enterprises in Drogheda-Urban LEA and other areas not included on the Regional Aid Map may still avail of Research, Development and Innovation Aid, Environmental Aid, Training Aid, and Consultancy Aid, under the General Block Exemption Regulation.  Aid under the De Minimis Regulation, i.e., aid to an undertaking of less than €200,000 in any rolling 3-year period, offers a further avenue, particularly for smaller sized grants and investments to small enterprises.

Site Acquisitions

Questions (202)

Gerald Nash

Question:

202. Deputy Ged Nash asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the precise location of a site (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20289/22]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

Regional development is a priority for IDA Ireland.  IDA Ireland is targeting 40 investments for the Mid-East region in the period 2021 to 2024. Louth is already home to 35 IDA Ireland client companies directly employing more than 4,500 people in Technology, Life Sciences, International Financial Services and Engineering & Industrial Technologies.

In June 2021, IDA Ireland acquired two landbanks in Co Louth. These land acquisitions, with a combined total of 149 acres are situated in Drogheda and in Dundalk and form part of IDA’s long term strategic plan to position Louth and the wider region to compete for FDI investment. The acquisition of these landbanks is part of IDA Ireland’s overall property programme which is supported by the Government through the Department of Enterprise, Trade & Employment.

The new IDA lands in Drogheda are located at the Mell, Drogheda County Louth. The site is situated approximately 2km north of Drogheda Town and within approximately 1.5km of the M1 Motorway. The primary entrance to the lands is via the R132 (former N1).

Energy Usage

Questions (203)

Neasa Hourigan

Question:

203. Deputy Neasa Hourigan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the special measures his Department is taking to reduce energy usage in the scenario in which members of the public are being asked to do the same. [20293/22]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

Public bodies are required to report annual energy efficiency data to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) who manages the reporting process on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications (DECC). As part of this process, my Department has delivered 63% in energy efficiency reductions, the second highest level of all Government Departments, since the public sector energy performance programme commenced over a decade ago. The SEAI publishes these results annually.

My Department has an active internal cross-Departmental “Green Team” with over 30 staff across the Department and its Offices, which include the Companies Registration Office, the Office of Director of Corporate Enforcement, the Intellectual Property Office of Ireland, the Labour Court and the Workplace Relations Commission.   

In terms of the internal day-to-day Departmental operations, it is through this “Green Team”, with functional responsibility at Principal Officer level, that the Department acts to promote and encourage climate action awareness to all staff under the four pillars of energy reduction, water conservation, waste management and ecology, across the eleven buildings occupied by staff of my Department.

Specifically on energy saving initiatives, my Department has implemented a host of initiatives over the recent past to deliver significant energy savings, amongst which include the following:  

- Installation of LED lighting and the introduction of motion sensors in many rooms in several buildings so as to reduce electricity usage;

- The installation of new energy efficiency boiler heating system in 2021;

- A reduction in the number of personal printers and the introduction of eco-friendly “all in one” photocopiers and printers;

- A 75% reduction in the number of electrically powered water coolers across a number of buildings and replacement of same with filtered water systems.

- Purchase of more eco-friendly ICT equipment and time adjustments to ICT power down of systems;

- Reduced temperature settings for heating systems, where possible, across of our buildings;

- Numerous awareness webinars; information sessions and training for staff regarding energy efficiency and wider climate action related issues, including a dedicated Departmental “Green Month” each year over the past three years.

In parallel with the energy saving sphere the Department has looked to create awareness and build on its own sustainability options, through logging water usage, annual distribution of seeds to staff country-wide to enhance biodiversity and also our recent installation of beehives on the roof of our Kildare Street building.

Whilst the Department has made excellent progress in delivering very significant energy savings over recent years, it is recognised that given the ambition of the Government’s Climate Action Strategy and the energy related consequences arising from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we continually need to focus on further energy saving initiatives.  

In that context the Department is currently working closely with the Office of Public Works on the feasibility of installing solar panels on the roof of our building at 23 Kildare Street, the aim of which is to ultimately make the building energy self-sufficient and sustainable.

In addition, we continue to actively engage directly with, and receive welcome advice from, the DECC and the SEAI in relation to the development of a Departmental Climate Action Mandate for completion later in 2022. As part of this process we are exploring what new energy initiatives, over and above those already implemented, could feasibly be initiated over the period ahead.

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